As a pagan I had many preconceived notions about what Christianity was or what it meant to be a Christian. I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, and honestly He was never a thought in my mind. Jesus Christ was a swear word to me. Outside of that He was either a mythical figure or a historical figure. The guy with the long hair and white robes. I had nothing but disdain for Christians for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately part of that I was taught at the Mormon Church as a child. They do not hold the same beliefs as Christians, and I was taught away from the Truth of the Gospel message. I didn’t realize this though, being just a child, so I never questioned why I hated Christians.
As far as I was always concerned, Christians were a bunch of perfect people with no problems. At the same time I also thought Christianity was filled with hypocrites who thought they were better than everyone else and looked down on everyone from the pedestals they stood on. Admittedly there are people like that, but not all of them are Christians. As a pagan, I didn’t see it that way. I just hated Christianity and everything it stood for. Funny thing is, I didn’t actually know what Christianity was all about. I assumed it was about following rules and a God that was far away and judgmental, waiting to send you to hell. Another belief instilled by the Mormon Church. It wasn’t until I read the Bible for myself and encountered Jesus Christ, that I realize how very wrong I was all my life.
There is nothing perfect about Christianity. There is not perfect formula for getting saved and living a perfect life, free of problems. The only thing perfect in Christianity is Jesus Christ, perfect and sinless because He is God. Outside of that, we are all broken people, living in a very broken world. We are all hurting and lost in some way or another. We are all searching for the Truth and ultimately for perfect love, that only comes from God. There is not one certain way to be or act. We are all doing the best we can with what we know.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
I have pondered the question many times, what does it really mean to be a Christian? Do any Christians really follow Jesus? Is the life of a true Christian, as modeled by the Bible even possible? It seems to me even now, in the midst of Christianity, that no one is even doing this walk right. No one is following Jesus with full surrender and abandon. Christianity is filled with paganism in every facet, and other Christians tear each other from limb to limb, using the very scripture we hold so dear. We sin, yet judge others for their sin. We go to church like it’s a social club. We do life like everyone else in the world, just going to work and taking care of our families. There is nothing special or out of the ordinary about us.
So what exactly is normal Christianity? Is it someone who strives to be as Christ like as possible, loving everyone completely, feeding the poor and devoting their time to ministry? Is Christianity about striving for a sinless life and being on a constant spiritual high? No. This is not what normal Christianity is. This is what we imagine we should be as Christians. This is what the world thinks Christianity should look like. This is not anywhere near the norm, for any of us.
I believed for a while that when I became Christian I was going to be perfect. I kept waiting for it to happen, and it didn’t. The Holy Spirit continued to convict me of things about myself and in my life that needed to be changed. I kept feeling better about myself as I made those changes, and I kept looking down on the other Christians around me. Why was I getting more Christ like while everyone around me had plateaued back in high school? No one was moving closer to Jesus, but instead staying where it was comfortable. Meanwhile I saw examples of other Christians who were out there healing the sick and casting out demons and praying the fire of God down on people so they could encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit. They were walking in selfless love and what I saw closely resembled the disciples and apostles in the Bible, rather than your average Joe.
So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
What I didn’t understand is I was not seeing the whole picture of any one individual. The Christians who were stagnant were not wrong for staying where it was comfortable and the Christians who were out praying for the sick were not right because they were doing something extra ordinary. There is no right and wrong when it comes to Christianity. There is no set of rules on what Christianity needs to look like or feel like. God is much bigger than all the ideas that we could ever come up with, to limit Him and Christianity to a set of rules or behaviors or standards. Yet that is what I thoroughly believed in my walk into Christianity.
When we start to view Christianity through this strict confines, we are turning it into a religion instead of a relationship. Christianity started out very simply – a group of men and women who knew Jesus and spent their days with Him. They talked to Him, they told them their hopes and fears, they shared lives together. They broke bread together, traveled together, and they learned to trust Jesus with all their hearts. They learned to see that Jesus loved them unconditionally and that through them they could experience life with a new freedom they never knew was possible. Because of that they were willing to abandon what they had known and live unconventionally. Yet they never became perfect.
They argued, vied for the affections of Jesus, were competitive with each other for prominence, denied Jesus as God and even ran away when things got hard. That is just a small list of the mistakes the disciples made. They were only human – broken in a very broken world that has been ruled by the evil one, the devil. Jesus did not come here to start a religion or have us follow rules or standards. That was what the Pharisees were doing. No. Jesus came to love us, to heal our brokenness, to free us from the captivity that the devil has ensnared us in, and to show us that to Him, we are very worthy. God loves us so very much, enough that He would sacrifice everything for us. He did not give us the Bible as a set of rules to follow, but as a living testimony of His love!!
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
The devil would love for us to turn Christianity into a religion. We have done a very good job with his help. We take up all the shame and fear and need for approval and turn our relationship with our Creator into great works to get us into heaven. That is one thing that is supposed to separate Christianity from all other religions. Every other religion ever is based on working your way into heaven, without any real relationship with the god figure. Only Christianity offers redemption through a relationship with a perfect and holy God. How can you beat that kind of gift? You don’t have to do anything, other than believe and have a relationship with Jesus? Amazing and simple! So why do we make it so complicated?
Are people just inherently complicated? I don’t believe so. I think that the world would have us believe that things are much more complicated than they are. And the world is owned by the devil. This is his domain, in which he is the prince of. The Bible makes that clear. The devil only has a few goals for us – steal us away from God, kill our souls so we go to hell, and destroy all of our hope. If he can do that, he has found success. Yes he wants us to die, but what better than to send us to hell to rot with him for all eternity? True hell is the absence of God. I should know, because I was there for most of my life.
So again, what is normal Christianity? Normal Christianity is someone who loves Jesus with all their heart. They are not perfect, but completely broken. They may be in denial that they are broken, or they may be in full surrender to God in their brokenness. Normal Christians are walking through life trying to do the best they can with what they have. They try the best they can to give their lives to God, but fail more often than not. They have good intentions and try to love others and give selflessly. Yet they fail often and feel disappointed or ashamed. They may grow spiritually in leaps or bounds, or may not grow at all preferring to stay where they think they are safe. There is always two things that are underlying our motives in life and how we behave and relate. 1) Our relationship with our Creator God, and 2) The pain and brokenness we have experienced through our lives. This is what shapes a normal Christian. This is what shapes every human being.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
If you have been beating yourself up because you don’t think you are a good Christian, or maybe not even a real Christian; or maybe you think God is angry at you; then I am telling you right now to stop. You are listening to the lies of the devil. He wants you to feel bad about yourself and to believe God is disappointed in you. He is not. He loves you, right here, right now, no matter what. You are good enough for God, imperfection and all. Whether or not you are stuck in sin, or feel far away from God, you are doing the best you can with what you know. It is OK. You just have to keep going, one step at a time, to move closer to God and closer to finding the healing He has for you. We are never going to have a perfect, sinless life, or be just like Jesus. We were not meant to be. We are meant to be His children and to be loved by God, and love Him back. Everything outside of that is just part of the details and circumstances of your life.
You are the Jewish man who was beaten and left to die by robbers. Jesus is the Good Samaritan. He is the one who you least expected to come rescue you, and saw the value in you. Jesus is the one who saw you broken and bandaged your wounds. Jesus is the one who cared enough to stop everything He was doing, and take you in so you could live.
It is time for you to come out of the darkness, brothers and sisters. It is time to stop hiding behind the lies that you need to be OK all the time, or that everyone needs to live up to some godly standards that are impossible. Let down your guard as you hide behind walls of fear and pain and move closer to the God who loves you with a never ending love. Let Jesus renew and strengthen you as you just sit quietly with Him. Believe He is right there, even if you can’t feel it. He is. Forever. You are His. He will never let you go. That is what normal Christianity is. It’s time to embrace it.
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8